Friday, December 31, 2010

The Last of 2010

Hope everyone is looking forward to the new opportunities of the new year and not worrying about the missed chances of 2010. Best wishes to everyone.

Phantom Four
Roger Wilson
Outskirts Press, $14.95
ISBN: 9781432761226

In 1735 in Nepal, the Historian Professor Stevens lead Memory to the remote site where she learns her god Lucifer’s scheme to dominate the world has four Chosen ones in the way. Memory kills the professor, but concludes the Chosen Ones have not been born yet. She places a curse on them to die when they turn five years old.

In 1985 in Brooklyn Julie Smith gives birth to a quartet of fraternal boys. Her euphoric husband Damon names them Rex, Kevin, Paul and Oscar. Five years later the four brothers and their two years old sister Erica are at playground with their parents when a beam comes from a comet in space killing the quartet.

In 2010, the four shadows of the Smith quartet arise from their graveyard, but as muscular adults. They are confused as to what happened to them and who their family is though they know each other’s first names. The foursome meets women they like and grow stronger as does the curse inside of them. Soon, they find themselves at the front of a war; the battle zone is New York City and the enemy is Lucifer’s devils from hell with their beloved women their only anchor to sanity.

This is an exciting urban fantasy with a key romantic subplot that is cleverly interwoven into the action-packed story line. The lead fantastic four are clearly delineated even when they are five by their particular prowess even though having a quartet of heroes and their support can be overwhelming at times. Readers will enjoy taking the “subway to hell” as train conductor Roger Wilson provides a thrilling ride. Harriet Klausner

Haunted Echoes
Julie Ann Howell
Perseverance Press, $19.95
ISBN: 9781936051694

Having one book to her credit, Sarah Reddington faces writer’s block while her deadline to hand over her second novel to her publisher is nearing. She is staying at the Otter Cove Inn in Cape Elizabeth, Maine for a few weeks as the only guest; not even the innkeepers are around when she arrives.

Strange sounds reverberate throughout the walls; so loud that Sarah hears them. A noise in the room on the third floor scares her into running back to her writing area. She does not hear the doorknob slowly being turned until she realizes an entity besides herself is in the inn and guarding it. Her sister Abby knows she is in danger and intends to get her out of there. Before she can do that, Abby’s daughter Tessa is taken in by the spirit of the inn with no way for Abby to reach her daughter until Riley, who knows what is going on helps Abby. They must find a way in to rescue Sarah and Tessa before aunt and niece are lost forever.

Haunted Echoes’ main characters are the Victorian inn and the spirit that inhabits the haunted house. Together along with the Atlantic coast of Maine they create an eerie gothic like atmosphere. The arrival of Sarah triggers the supernatural events as the Keeper wants the visitor’s soul. Mindful of King’s The Shining even with its radically different locale, fan will enjoy this old fashion spooky haunted house thriller. Harriet Klausner

The Bards of Bone Plain
Patricia McKillip
Ace, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441019571

He wants to finish his class work so he can graduate from the school on the hill. Phelan Cle chose an easy topic for his final report, the frequently studied Bone Plain. For five centuries the legendary locale has been argued about by academia as to whether it is myth fostered by romantic poets or a lost land. Even at his bardic school, Phelan knows most assume the Bone Plain is legend with its alleged trio triad of Trials, Terrors and treasures.

Phelan’s research uncovers the story of a wandering bard Nairn the Unforgiven and the student wants to know more about him. At the same time his archeologist father Jonah digs at the ancient ruins of the city. Working at the excavation sites is Princess Beatrice, who prefers digs to dances. When the team uncovers an enigmatic disk with ancient runes on it, Phelan believes this is the key to solving the riddle of Nairn the Unforgiven while Beatrice begins to notice what has been hidden in plain sight.

This is a strange but enjoyable tale that feels like a fantasy, but is not; as Patricia McKillip provides a scholarly atmosphere in which the Lovin’ Spoonful tune “Do You Believe in Magic?” seems so apropos as there is no paranormal. The story line switches effortlessly between Phelan, Beatrice and Nairn with the language of the runes connecting the trio (everything is in threes). Fans will appreciate the low-keyed look at The Bards of Bone Plain as the present interprets the past with a contemporary filter that can lead to misinterpretation. Harriet Klausner

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